All it Takes is Integrity.
Suffering isn’t static; when we are in the crucible of suffering we writhe and wiggle, struggling to end our pain. In terms of Dependent Origination, we fabricate many different ‘I’s trying to end the suffering. But as long as the false identities we fabricate are based on ignorance—desire or aversion—we cannot end our suffering. Indeed, we simply perpetuate it.
Why? Any ‘I’ created out of ignorance or passion will result in suffering in ignorance or passion. For example, someone is suffering, and they desire to stop suffering, so they go out and get drunk, or have sex. They have just increased their suffering: on top of whatever suffering they had, now they also have to deal with drunkenness or sexuality and its consequences according to the law of kamma.
Relief from suffering can only come from fabricating an ‘I’ based on goodness. Therefore we must develop faith and integrity, and make a commitment to serve something greater than ourselves, something holy and pure. In the teaching of the Buddha that is the Noble Eightfold Path.
We saw in the section above that there is a relation between ignorance and fabrication in Dependent Origination and the stages of faith and contentment in the Noble Eightfold Path. Faith means confidence in the Buddha’s teaching, that begins from knowledge and understanding of the Four Noble Truths and the Noble Eightfold Path, and following the Precepts of the Vinaya:
- No lying
- No stealing
- No killing
- No sex
- No intoxication
Once we commit to studying the teaching of the Buddha and follow at least the first five Precepts, everything changes. Suffering begins to recede and good things start to happen. Why? We are creating good kamma based on goodness instead of bad kamma based on ignorance and passion. If we keep this up for some time, we attain contentment and satisfaction based on confidence in the Buddha’s teaching. We try it and it reduces our suffering, just as promised.
But we’re not done yet; we still have to reduce and eliminate the causes of suffering: ignorance and fabrication. That will require study and practice, but at least we are no longer lost in suffering. We know the way out; we just have to learn and implement the practice of the Eightfold Path, the Raft for crossing the Flood of suffering. And the Eightfold Path begins with Right View and observing the first five Precepts:
“How is one an individual who practices for his own benefit and for that of others? There is the case where a certain individual himself abstains from the taking of life and encourages others in undertaking abstinence from the taking of life. He himself abstains from stealing and encourages others in undertaking abstinence from stealing. He himself abstains from sexual misconduct and encourages others in undertaking abstinence from sexual misconduct. He himself abstains from lying and encourages others in undertaking abstinence from lying. He himself abstains from intoxicants that cause heedlessness and encourages others in undertaking abstinence from intoxicants that cause heedlessness. Such is the individual who practices for his own benefit and for that of others.” — Sikkha Sutta [AN 4.99]
These are the five precepts, the basis of a life lived in goodness. As long as we follow them, good fortune will come our way. As soon as we violate them, suffering is coming.